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A letter from Carlos Cardenas Martinez in Nicaragua
Otoño 2014 - UN MINISTERIO CRISTIANO
PROTECCION DE MIGRANTES EN NICARAGUA ...UN MINISTERIO CRISTIANO QUE TRABAJA CASI DESCALZO.
"Porque tuve hambre, y me disteis de comer; tuve sed, y me disteis de beber; fui forastero, y me recogisteis; estuve desnudo, y me cubristeis; enfermo y me visitasteis; en la carcel, y vinisteis a mi" - Mateo 25: 35,36
Hermanas y hermanos!
Me place saludarles nuevamente mediante esta carta al mismo tiempo que comparto con Uds impresiones sobre asuntos que para nuestros socios desde algún tiempo atrás vienen ocupando los primeros sitios en la escala de prioridades, me refiero al tema de los migrantes en la región de Centroamerica.
En las corporaciones mediáticas del mundo el tema de la Crisis de los y Niñas Migrantes viajando solos hacia las fronteras del Norte en Mexico y los Estados Unidos mientras arriesgan sus vidas en la peligrosa travesía se mantuvo por mucho tiempo. La Alianza de Acción Conjunta de las Iglesias o ACTAlliance y sus foros de país implementan un proyecto de respuesta a esta emergencia con el propósito de aliviar la situación de centenares de niños y niñas bajo riesgo quienes terminan sufriendo el rechazo y la deportación hacia sus países en el Sur.Continue reading
A letter from Carlos Cardenas Martinez in Nicaragua
Fall 2014 - A Compassion Ministry
PROTECTION FOR MIGRANTS IN NICARAGUA . . . A COMPASSION MINISTRY WORKING ALMOST BAREFOOT
For I was in need of food, and you gave it to me: I was in need of drink, and you gave it to me: I was wandering, and you took me in;I had no clothing, and you gave it to me: when I was ill, or in prison, you came to me (Matthew 25:35, 36).
Beloved sisters and brothers! Worshipful greetings to all of you!
I am pleased to greet you again through this letter at the same time that I share with you impressions on pressing issues that have been consuming much of our partner CEPAD's energy for some time now. I am referring to the issue of migrants and displaced persons in the Central American region.
For a while now media around the world have raised the issue of the crisis of migrant children traveling unaccompanied to the U.S./Mexico border and risking their lives in this dangerous crossing. The Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance and its country forums are implementing an emergency response aimed to alleviate the situation of hundreds of boys and girls at risk who suffer rejection and deportation from the North to their countries in the South.Continue reading
A letter from Leslie Vogel serving in Guatemala
Fall 2014 - One Week Can Change You
Dear friends, colleagues, and companions in God’s mission,
The tremendous gift, for me, about working with CEDEPCA is the focus throughout all of its four programs on Education that Transforms. (Romans 12:2—Be not transformed by this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.)
“One week is not enough time to change Guatemala, but a week is enough time for Guatemala to change you.” This phrase has become the slogan for CEDEPCA’s Intercultural Encounters (IE) program, with which I work in my primary assignment as a facilitator with visiting groups. People of all ages and backgrounds come with good hearts, lots of good will, and a desire to “help” in some way; they want to fix something, paint something, dig up or plant something, share Christ with someone. They want to leave Guatemala better, in some way, than when they arrived.Continue reading
A letter from Suzette Goss-Geffrard in Haiti
November 2014 - What’s in a Gift?
Recently a sister, Hester, from Community Presbyterian Church in Deerfield, Florida, wrote me about wanting to give a gift of sewing machines. She wanted to know if this would be an appropriate gift to share. I wrote her about an organization that one of our partners has been working with called Organization de la Defense des Droits des Sourds-Muets (ODDSM), which translates to Organization for the Defense of the Rights for the Deaf.
ODDSM was the brainchild of Mrs. Jonka Guerda, whose determination to succeed in life despite having an amputation spilled over into her desire to help others overcome physical challenges. She saw that once deaf children reach their majority, there were no opportunities for them to learn job skills or find employment. They were frequently unable to even access the social services that are provided by the state. She began by teaching young deaf women needle skills to produce items to sell to create a livelihood. Later she sought training in the neighboring Dominican Republic on how to make cleaning products. The program now includes a few young males who are deaf. They have now created a company in which these young people make, package and market their own products. It has been wonderful to buy all of my dishwashing soap and disinfectant products from these enterprising young people. These young people want to be integrated into the larger workforce without regard for their physical “challenges.”Continue reading
A letter from Amy Davisson Galetzka serving in Thailand
Fall 2014 - Catching Up
Dear Friends and Family,
In my opinion this year has already been overly full. And we are not quite three-quarters of the way through. I understand that all of these events had good results. However, the process of getting through them, of waiting, communicating, and trying not to be anxious about the future was not easy. Some of the events to which I am referring:
• A new job for my husband after a few months of wondering where or what he might be doing. I felt confident that he would be an amazing part of any group and it was a sure thing that he would be asked to join, but the waiting and wondering about the future and wanting him to have something to do that he loved was a test of my patience.
• Wondering if my mom would have a clear report on her next CT scans to see if her lung cancer had returned.
• I have to fight against being overly worried after Nadia’s illness.
• Major transitions in work that seem to be constant, lengthy and complicated.
As I am searching for encouragement in God’s Word, these verses stand out as something to hold on to:
Transition: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13.
A letter from Brenda Harcourt serving in Kenya
December 2014 - Training Bearing Fruit
I love the Advent season and the wonderful feelings and memories that come with it. Churches begin marking time till Christmas and we seem to change as we prepare for the season…
For me here in Kenya, Advent is usually marked by my trekking up to Imenti presbyteries in the Mt. Kenya area to conduct training. This year we conducted a pastor/spouse retreat that was incredible. The pastors and their spouses get very little time together, so when they are able to get together for a week or even a few days everyone is excited. This year was extra special. The Imenti presbyteries are in partnership with Blackhawk Presbytery in the U.S.A. and over the years Blackhawk was able to raise money for training. Imenti decided to invest the money and try to help fund the training each year from the interest they get. Imenti has been saving and was finally able to finance 70 percent of the total cost of the retreat for the pastors/spouses. It was exciting to see the sense of accomplishment as they withdrew the money and paid for the costs for every pastor and spouse from their three presbyteries to come together for five days. It is extremely exciting to me to have my years of trying to help them see that they didn’t need to totally rely on international donations but could do some of it themselves came to fruition in this event. How exciting to see my leadership training bearing fruit. We laughed together and we cried together. We worshipped together and we played together. Blackhawk sent a clergy/spouse couple to help with the training, and they were received with open arms by the Kenyan pastors and spouses.Continue reading
A letter from Karen Moritz in the Czech Republic
Late Fall 2014 - In the Footsteps...
Autumn in Prague brought beautiful and sunny days, with the nights crisp and cool. During October and November, however, I visited the U.S. for my annual Interpretation Assignment. Since learning and remembering Czech is such a challenge, I have made arrangements with World Mission to come back to the U.S. for 2 months each year instead of the customary 6 months following each 3-year term. I was able to visit some new congregations and presbyteries as well as current supporting congregations. It was so good to share with everyone about life and ministry here in the Czech Republic over the past year as well as hear about your various and diverse ministries.
Here in the Czech Republic, one of the highlights of this year was preparing and leading the travel/study seminar “In the Footsteps of Jan Hus and Martin Luther,” which was held April 28 to May 6. I wrote about it in my Spring newsletter. I know you were all praying for us, because the Seminar was great. Your prayers worked!
Although it would be tempting to tell you all about the seminar in great detail, I’ll just hit a few of the highlights from my perspective. One of the best parts of the Seminar was the hospitality and welcome of the host church, the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB). There were numerous opportunities for the participants to meet and interact with people from the Central Church Office, the Synodal Council, the Protestant Theological Faculty, and various congregations. Trips outside Prague to Telč, Tábor, and Velka Lhota enabled the participants to meet and interact with people from several congregations as well as visiting and learning about historic sites in the Czech Republic.Continue reading
A letter from Debbie Blane in the U.S., awaiting return to South Sudan
December 2014 - Egyptian, Sudanese Christmases
When I lived in Sudan for the last quarter of 2009 and all of the year 2010, there were a fair number of Egyptian Orthodox families in the country. The Orthodox faith celebrates Christmas on the Epiphany that is observed by the Western church, on January 6. I was in Khartoum (Sudan) for Christmas in 2009 and had invited myself to the home of a colleague and his family on December 25. This was a learning experience for me since I had not realized at that point that because they were Egyptian, even though they were Presbyterian, they still observed Christmas in January. While they did have a tree up already and gifts were in abundance that they were giving to a local charity, it was very clear that this was not their Christmas as it was mine. They acknowledged this and made me feel as welcome as possible.
In 2010 I decided to leave Khartoum to be sure I had a Western Christmas, and I spent the 25th of December in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with a mission co-worker friend. In turn we went to the home of another Presbyterian mission co-worker couple where many Americans, and some British, friends gathered for a traditional American/British Christmas.Continue reading
A letter from Kay Day serving in Rwanda
December 2014 - Walking Together
Advent Greetings from Rwanda,
The incarnation—God with us–is such an amazing concept. It stretches the imagination to think about the creator of the universe taking on the form of one of his creatures and coming to live among them, as one of them, to share in their joys and pains, to live with them in their frustrations and fears. And yet that is just what God did. That is the core of what we celebrate at Christmas—that God is with us in all the circumstances of life.
Maybe equally amazing is that God invites us to be a part of his incarnation by joining him in that opportunity of being with those he calls us to serve—to be a part of his ministry of presence. That is what I have the privilege of participating in every day that I am here in Rwanda—being with our Rwandese brothers and sisters in Christ. About once a month I get to do this by traveling with my students to their home parishes and preaching in the congregations that sent them for theological training. I have the opportunity to be with their pastors and to be part of their ministries, if only for a day. The rest of the month I am with my students as they lead daily worship and preach in English for the first time. I am here to pray with them for the hurts of their lives and the struggles of their families’ lives. The longer I am here, the more often I am invited into their lives, the more I am able to share with them, to pray with them, to share victories in studies and in answers to prayer.Continue reading
A letter from Karla Koll serving in Costa Rica
December 2014 - Wrapping Up the Year
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Greetings from Costa Rica in this Advent season.
Yes, Advent has begun. There is a part of me that wishes Advent would come when the activities of the old year have come to an end so there would be more time to enjoy this season. And yet this is the way God comes to us, the new breaking in amidst the old. The new liturgical year starts before the calendar year has come to an end. While the world focuses on year-end reports, God is doing something new. This Advent, may we prepare for our part in what God is doing.
Now that December is here, the rains have pretty much stopped in Costa Rica. We are enjoying cooler temperatures, including chilly mornings. Increased winds mark the change of seasons. I am glad to report that the drought in Nicaragua and the rest of Central America eased during the last couple of months, with rainfall close to normal levels. On our farm the cattle are gaining back the weight they lost. Several calves have been born in recent weeks. My husband, Javier, is currently in Nicaragua working on the irrigation system on our farm.Continue reading
A letter from Stephen and Brenda Stelle serving in Ethiopia
December 2014 - “Teacher, one question?”
Christmas Greetings from Dembi Dollo!
Steve can tell you when it’s going to happen. He’s as predictable as the 6:30 breakfast bell at BESS. Each time Steve finishes a topic in his Genesis class, Efrem Dibissa’s hand flies into the air. “Teacher, one question?” he says. Most often it is a deep and insightful question. Like, “Teacher, if Abraham committed sins, how can he be a man of faith?” or “Teacher, how can Melchizedek be without mother or father?”
Efrem, who is taking both the Genesis and the Psalms courses from Steve this semester, is a Diploma Three student who has been a pastor for 10 years. Most recently he is working for the Dalesede Presbytery of the Western Wolega Synod. In his hometown of Alemteferi, which is approximately 50 miles from the Gidada Theological College, his family, wife and four children, ranging from 16 years to his 8-month-old baby daughter, remain while he upgrades his education. They somehow manage to live on one-half of his normal salary while he does his studies.Continue reading
A letter from Mark Hare serving in Haiti/Dominican Republic
November 2014 - Yard Garden Program
“She gave from her heart. Now we need to give back from our hearts.” That was the response of Viljean Louis to a group of about 60 Haitian farmers after Becca Montgomery, an elder from First Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa, Ala., had provided them a beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
Together with Kristie Taylor and Liz Hubbard, Becca had spent three intense days with the folks from Bayonnais. The three tested their own limits and some of their assumptions about what mission work really is. The culmination of the group’s visit was a joyful gathering organized by Viljean and other leaders on Wednesday, November 12, to celebrate the organization’s yearlong work with the MPP-FONDAMA Yard Garden Program
I have been working with the yard garden program of the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP) since being sent to serve with MPP by PC(USA) World Mission in 2004. In 2012 I was offered the opportunity to extend what we had learned in MPP to other groups of organized farmers. The Bayonnais folk represent the fifth and latest organization with whom we have begun training and providing follow-up through home visits.Continue reading
A letter from Nancy Smith-Mather serving in South Sudan
November 2014 - Fighting Fears
Many young girls in South Sudan live with the fear that they will never have an opportunity to go to school. Many students currently enrolled fear they will be taken out of school too early. Let’s help them fight these fears.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s partnership with the church in Sudan spans over 100 years. Today we remain in close relationship with the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) as well as other denominations in the Sudans. The PCOSS leadership, even in the midst of violent conflict in their country, remains committed to increasing and improving educational opportunities for young people in South Sudan (a country in which more than half of the population is under the age of 18). The Presbyterian Church of South Sudan requests Presbyterian churches in the United States to join their efforts.
The South Sudan Education and Peacebuilding Project (SSEPP), launched at the PC(USA) General Assembly in June 2014, offers a resounding YES to that request. We committed to a five-year, $3.4 million, project to strengthen educational systems and opportunities in South Sudan. The vision and implementation of this project comes from the PC(USA)’s global partners in South Sudan: PCOSS, Across, Yei Teacher Training College (YTTC), and RECONCILE International. The peacebuilding component of the project underscores the need for stability and safety in order for schools to thrive.Continue reading
A letter from Christi Boyd serving in Congo
Winter 2014 - Child Migration, Madagascar
Dear mission supporters, family and friends,
Through the lens of television cameras, child migrants have arrived at the doorsteps of American households. For many, the recent influx of young, unaccompanied children from Central American countries has been bewildering. A border wall was to keep at a distance the desperate realities that bring parents to the heartbreaking decision to part with their children.
Poverty and violence can be both cause and consequence of child migration, child labor and child trafficking, worldwide. Child migrants became also a focus group for me this year. My last newsletter highlighted the ordeal of five young teens in Rwanda who had started drifting due to economic strains in their family. Thank God, they have reunited with their relatives and continue school now. It goes without saying, however, that many child migrants don't find their way home before their young lives take a turn for the worse.
Akany Avoko Faravohitra is a halfway house in Madagascar that primarily serves underage Malagasy migrant girls who have had a run-in with the law and are placed in the residential care facility by order of the juvenile court. Called after the neighborhood where it is located in the capital city of Antananarivo, it is a longstanding ecumenical ministry of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Madagascar (FFPM), and as such it is embraced by our PC(USA) partner, the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM). The Center has state authorization and operates under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Population. Faravohitra director and FJKM pastor Rev. Herimalala Rakotovao guided me during my stopover at the Center.Continue reading
A letter from Marta Bennett serving in Kenya
November 13, 2014 - The Best & Worst of Times
Is it Charles Dickens or Solomon who most aptly described this past year of our lives here in Nairobi? It has in many ways been the best of times and also some of the worst of times; but then again, for everything there is a season…
The year 2014 has once again been stretching, one in which I have held onto Lamentations 3:22-23, in which the prophet declares, Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: Great is your faithfulness. God’s mercies are new every morning, no matter what the circumstances seem to be. He is there, and he walks with us, just as he has promised.
Some of the best of times this past year for me and my family have been:
Students: As always, the joy and the purpose of both administration and teaching at the university are the growth in the minds, hearts and lives of students. We wrestle together with the content and what that content means for their wide variety of situations and roles. Besides teaching courses such as Biblical and Theological Paradigm for Transformational Leadership (Ph.D. level), Conflict Transformation and Reconciliation Processes (Ph.D. and M.A.), Personal Leadership Development (M.A.) and Leading Change (M.A.), I also advise students on their master's theses and undergraduate senior projects, engaging with the academic research, contextual realities and students’ lives, work, and ministries.Continue reading
A letter from Tim and Gloria Wheeler serving in Honduras
December 2014 - Hope—Living Into the Future
The new year brings a new opportunity and new hope for achievement, for throwing away the old and reaching toward our goals for a better life. Our religion tells us to live in a new way, with new relationships based on love and by doing this to make the world new. This sounds wonderful, but can this really become reality, especially if you are poor with little education and a family to feed? Gloria wrote the story that follows about her friend, Maria.
Maria got up one morning very happy and full of dreams because it was the day that she would start learning something new. For the first time she was going to learn how to use a sewing machine. As soon as she started walking from her community of Cerro Azul, a small community in the district of Trinidad, Honduras, she started to feel worried. “What will happen if she could not learn?” she thought, “I don’t know how to read and write and if I really can’t learn because of that…hmmm...” She was sure that there were more women in the workshop. She went into the room and went up to the instructor. She told him who she was and that she could not read and write. Now she knew why she had been so nervous as she had walked from her village—this had happened to her before; she had been turned away because of not being able to read and write. People like her hadn’t had all of the opportunities that she hoped to give her children. In some ways the miracle was that she was present that day and was trying to reach past the untouchable, reaching into the unknown, and dreaming of something better.Continue reading
A letter from César Carhuachín serving in Colombia
November 2014 - Hoping, Praying for Peace
Hello friends and partners of the God's mission in Colombia:
Greetings from Barranquilla!
Life here in Colombia is hopeful. The Peace Conversation between the government and guerrillas (FARC—Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) is prospering. As of today, there are some agreements that include issues such as: (1) A Comprehensive Rural Reform; (2) Program Development with a Territorial Approach; and (3) A National Plan for Comprehensive Rural Reform. This 20-page document is the first draft of a Peace Document. Our partner, the Presbyterian Church of Colombia (PCC), is praying for these conversations and I invite you to pray together with us for peace in Colombia. We know that peace is much more than a single political agreement, but it is the beginning of a new socio-political context for Colombia and our church partner. And this is hopeful for all, and particularly for those who never have lived a time without guerrilla violence.Continue reading
A letter from Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado serving in Mexico
November 2014 - Guillermina's Story
“Hey Marcos, she’s from South Carolina!”
Adrian Gonzalez, director of customer relations, pulled on my shoulder and announced excitedly the news that another one of my “paisanos” was less than seven feet away from me. We were both in the Migrant Resource Center, yet we were miles apart in the reasons for finding ourselves at the center.
I turned and saw a woman not too much younger than me standing in dark clothes and a baseball cap shading a hint of deep sadness in her face.
“Buenos dias! Me llamo Marcos, como se llama Ud.?” I asked, assuming that this fellow Sandlapper’s first language was Spanish.
“My name is Guillermina,” she responded in perfect English.
Not 15 minutes before, Guillermina and I had been less than seven feet apart but did not yet know each other’s name, much less that we shared a common connection to and love for South Carolina.Continue reading
A letter from Mark Wright serving in Honduras
November 2014 - Relationships Turned Upside Down
During the first week of October I had the privilege of serving a delicious hot lunch to men, women, and some families who are homeless and hungry, alongside several of my young friends of the Presbyterian Church of Honduras. It was a beautiful, well organized, and thoughtful ministry that sought to lift up the dignity and image of God in everyone regardless of the circumstances in which they found themselves. For young Honduran Christians whose material circumstances were often very difficult, serving others in need touched them deeply.
But the thing that made this experience truly remarkable was that the young Hondurans were serving alongside their young North American friends from Westminster Presbyterian Church, not in urban Tegucigalpa, but in urban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Missional relationships had been turned upside down this time. Hondurans were spreading the Good News in word and deed in the United States.Continue reading
A letter from Barbara Nagy serving in Malawi
November 18, 2014 - Saturday at Nkhoma
It is 6 am on Saturday morning, and although power and water have been off intermittently for many days, we are sitting on our porch enjoying a God-created breeze, which defies human interference. There is a steady procession of people coming with various requests, mostly for school fees since we have reached the time of the school year when students are sent away if their first-term fees have not been paid.
Quite a number of people have already run out of food, even though the next harvest is five months away, because they have sold some of their maize to cover other essentials. School fees and costs for food and fuel have all risen dramatically in Malawi due to the severe financial constraints imposed by government corruption scandals, but the selling price of maize in the villages tends to lag far behind inflation. Those convicted in the scandal have bilked billions of kwacha (currency) from Malawi’s government, crippling hospitals, schools, civil services, and every aspect of society, yet they have been given light sentences such as three years in prison. Newspaper editorials have called for the culprits (such as are found) to be tried for crimes against humanity because of the damage that has been dealt to the health care system, with even referral hospitals running out of medicines, water, and other essential supplies. Christian hospitals have been singled out as not eligible to hire any new staff for the indefinite future, which poses an extreme burden for Christian health facilities across the country, which are predominantly serving the poor.Continue reading
A letter from Al Smith serving in Germany/Russia
November 19, 2014 - A Visit to Russia—and No Bears
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I WENT TO RUSSIA AND SAW VARIOUS ANIMALS, BUT … NO BEARS
Some seasons of the year are inextricably linked in our minds with the activities we associate with them: Christmas comes in December, the Kentucky Derby on the first weekend in May, the Super Bowl in early February. For the past nine years early November has been associated in my mind with the Roma Leadership Conference in Russia. I wasn’t there for the first conference, but, except for the year we were on Interpretation Assignment in the States, I have been at every conference since. We used to move the conference from one city to another, but we have long since settled on Kursk because of the availability of meeting space and lodgings at the seminary there.
This year’s conference took place November 7-9. My friend and colleague Andrey Beskorovainiy asked that I arrive in Kursk by November 2 so we could take care of some of the organizational details ahead of time. Things are a bit complicated for Andrey these days: he is taking care of his own congregation, working as a watchman part-time, coordinating Roma ministry over a wide territory, and doing all of the myriad of chores involved in running a small farming operation. Plus, he currently has a number of family members staying with him during the unrest in Ukraine.Continue reading
A letter from Doug Baker serving in Northern Ireland
November 2014 - Hugs, cake and an apology help restore relationships
There are hundreds of ways to engage in reconciliation. Sharing cake, hugs and an apology helped a lot on this occasion!
About six months ago I received a phone call from the minister of a rural congregation about 70 miles from Belfast. Four years earlier he had been in a “Handling Conflict in the Church” course I teach for final-year theological students. He wondered if I would do some general training with his elders on dealing constructively with conflict. We agreed on a date and place for a morning session. It was fairly easy to establish rapport, and there was good participation from the group. As the time was drawing to a close and I was asking what key points they would take away with them, one elder said, “Actually we do have a conflict affecting us now that we could do with help discussing.” I invited him to say more and he and others began to put me in the picture.Continue reading
A letter from Nancy Collins in the U.S. (Regional Liaison for East Central Africa)
November 2014 - Transformation Through Agriculture
Dear Family and Friends,
We found Rev. Gertrude Banda out in the middle of the newly cleared 13-acre field at Chasefu Model Farm. The field, which just months before had been dense Zambian bush, was cleared by hand in the traditional Zambia fashion—men using machetes and axes to cut the trees and bushes and using oxen to drag the heavy trunks and branches so they could be stacked for burning. In all honesty the field was not that much to look at—just a big open space. But for the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Synod of Zambia (CCAP Zambia) that field represented the Church leaders’ dreams of addressing the poverty of rural pastors and subsistence farmers; it represented their hope of improving life for thousands of Zambians.
The situation for rural pastors and subsistence farmers is grim; 65 percent of Zambians survive through subsistence farming on plots of land an acre or less. 70 percent of subsistence farmers are women and many of them are household heads. Maize is the staple crop and it depends on rain for a good harvest. In 2004, 75 percent of small-scale farming households had average annual incomes of about USD 219, with an average household size of 6.6.Continue reading
A letter from Bernie Adeney-Risakotta serving in Indonesia
November 2014 - Back to Work
Dear Family, Friends and Colleagues,
What is it like to come back to work in Indonesia after a glorious year in Boston? Frankly speaking, I was worried. Boston was like a dream. We loved it. In November 2013 we had a horrific accident and Farsijana had a long period of recovery from two fractured vertebrae, but even that gave us extra freedom to slow down and heal our souls as well as our bodies. Farsijana healed beautifully and created deep meaning and art out of her suffering. But I wondered how we would adjust to going back to “normal” work in Indonesia.
We needn’t have worried. As we stepped off the airplane and felt the humid heat sweep over us, we knew we were home. The lush green tropics, soaring volcanoes, beautiful beaches, ringing calls to prayer, smells of spicy sweet food, and the roar of kamikaze students on their motorbikes are part of our soul. We call our house Pondok Tali Rasa. That means a home where people are woven together in their “rasa” (feeling, thought, taste and senses). It has been a place of grace, where Muslims and Christians from areas of violent conflict have found peace and reconciliation. Our home became a community center for empowering women and children, promoting art and creativity, serving the basic needs of hundreds of victims of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and fostering deep discussion between people of different cultures and religions about the problems facing Indonesian society.
A letter from Eric and Becky Hinderliter serving in Lithuania
Advent 2014 - Grace Moments
“Išganytojau tauta” "Savior of the Nations, Come"
Prakartėlė naktyje Brightly does your manger shine
Skleidžia šviesą tamsoje. Glorious is its light divine.
Jau Tamsos aš nebijau, Let not sin o’er cloud this light;
Nes tikėjima gavau. Ever be our faith thus bright.
Greetings from Klaipeda, Lithuania.
We have reached the darkest time of the year. Less than seven hours of light daily. On some days the sun hardly shines at all. Advent can be a dark time.
In this darkness we wonder how we are doing. We are closing in on 14 years here as mission co-workers for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). As we think of the gift we have been given through this call by God and affirmation by the church that has sent us, we can only be overflowing with gratitude. Years ago, when we were in Louisville at the national offices of World Mission, we were asked at the end of the mission appointment process how we felt. We could only respond about how we felt with one word: “Redeemed!”Continue reading
A letter from Dan Turk serving in Madagascar
November 2014 - New FJKM Fruits and Vegetable Project
Greetings from Antananarivo, where a few early rains have settled the dust from seven months of dry season. Now new growth is starting to turn the browns to green. Everything is green when Christmas arrives in Madagascar. It is good to be home in Madagascar after time in the U.S. getting our son, Robert, settled at college. Robert continues to do well. Thank you to all who are praying for him.
As I noted in our June newsletter, I have begun working on a new project with PC(USA)’s partner church in Madagascar, the FJKM. The new project, the Fruits, Vegetables and Environmental Education (FVEE) Project, is working with seminaries and other structures of the FJKM.
Most work to date has taken place at the Ivato and Fianarantsoa seminaries. The Ivato seminary is the main FJKM seminary for students’ fourth and final year of study before becoming pastors. It is located just north of Antananarivo near the international airport. The campus is on about 20 hectares of FJKM land, though not all of this land is available for use by the seminary. The students spend their first three years at either the Mandritsara seminary in northern Madagascar or at the Fianarantsoa seminary in south central Madagascar. In recent years the Ivato seminary has had 30 to 46 students each year. About 30-40 percent of students are women. The Fianarantsoa seminary is located approximately 400 km south of Antananarivo. The seminary campus is on a hill and occupies about 10 hectares. Water is an issue as city water is irregular and relatively expensive and bedrock appears to make putting in wells prohibitive. Seminary students spend three years there before moving to the Ivato seminary for their fourth and last year of study. There are usually about 60-70 students at the Fianarantsoa seminary at one time.Continue reading
A letter from Ashley Wright serving in Honduras
November 2014 - An Amazing Response
We arrived back in Honduras from our summer vacation renewed and excited. Within a couple of weeks pastors were sharing some disturbing news, “The summer crop failed due to many months without any rain,” they said, “and in many of our communities people are really suffering from hunger.”
In these communities the people live by subsistence farming. They grow enough beans for their families and to buy seed for the next harvest, and that is about it. If anything goes wrong, like no rain, they are in trouble. In the five years we have been here, this the second time there has been such a long drought. It is always devastating.
I can’t imagine not being able to feed my family. The only thing I can relate it to in my head is remembering an episode of “Little House on the Prairie” when the crops are smashed by hail or eaten by locusts. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s family would go hungry. At least in the U.S. today in most places there are food banks. In Honduras there are no food banks. Where can people turn for help but to their church?Continue reading
A letter from Sadegh Sepehri in Germany
November 2014 - Rest, Fellowship, Evangelism
In 2013 the Iranian Presbyterian Church Berlin hosted a conference in Berlin, Germany, for Iranian and Afghani refugees. This conference was a great success and well received by the refugees as it provided both a time of physical rest and spiritual nourishment. This year as we thought of organizing another conference our attention was drawn to the situation of refugees in Greece. The refugees in Greece do not receive as much support and many are living in worse situations than those in Germany, so we decided a conference would be more beneficial near Athens. Our hope was to create a time of rest and fellowship with opportunity to share the gospel.
We began our planning by creating a budget and soliciting fund-raising support. Upon receiving initial funding, my colleague Aziz Sadaghiani and I traveled to Athens to search for an appropriate location and discuss the conference with our friend Hamid, who has a Persian home church in Athens. It was important for us to find an accommodation that would be restful and economical, with regular meals provided and hot showers. After looking around Athens it became apparent that the area was very crowded and hotels were more expensive than we desired, so we began to look for a quieter location outside of Athens. We were able to find a suitable location about 250 km from Athens at a comfortable and affordable hotel. We made a contract with the hotel and returned to Berlin to continue planning.Continue reading
A letter from Josh Hekkila serving in Ghana as Regional Liaison for West Africa
December 2014 - Thin Places
I’m writing this letter, not from one of my usual places in West Africa, but rather from the Scottish island of Iona, where I’m spending a few days of vacation after attending a program in Edinburgh. Just two weeks ago I was visiting our church partner in Niger, which is a sunny, hot, dry, and dusty place. And now I’m here on Iona, which is dark, cold, wet, and muddy. It seems perhaps impossible that these two vastly different places can in fact be on the same planet! But they are. Being in Niger and now here on Iona has gotten me thinking a lot about place—how our physical locations have an impact on our lives, and in particular on our faith and spirituality.
Whenever I’m in Niger I love the vast open spaces you see looking out over the dry terrain. It’s amazing the transformation that takes place there over the course of the year. If you visit Niger in January, you see endless fields of sand. But in six months time the land becomes green fields of sorghum and millet, due to the hard work of the people living on it. When you see the backbreaking labor that goes into cultivating the arid land in Niger, you can’t help but respect the people for the way they eke out a living in a very harsh environment.Continue reading
A letter from Tim Carriker serving in Brazil
November 2014 - Gambaga Witch Camp
I studied their faces, trying to fathom their distant world—80-some women, all extremely poor, all African, all elderly, all ostracized from their respective tribal communities accused of witchcraft, and all brightly and proudly dressed. And then they began to sing and worship Jesus. Can heaven possibly be better than this?! This white, male, certainly wealthy by any of their standards, ‘respectable’ missionary pastor from Brazil, on the other side of their Ghanaian, African world, was simply overwhelmed. Two months later, as I recall that experience, I still cannot contain myself. For the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ had been transforming nearly every aspect of these women’s lives. As targets of violence they had been rescued when missionaries and other Christians placed themselves before angry crowds with stones in their hands. They were given food and shelter. And for many long years, even decades, they were given skills to bring dignity and food to their tables as those same missionaries and evangelists tirelessly visited their villages to prepare the way for their eventual return and reintegration into their families and tribes.Continue reading
A letter from Richard and Debbie Welch serving in Guatemala
Winter 2014 - Reflections on 2014
Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,
“Is that you, Mary? Is that you, Joseph? Why, if we knew it was you, we would have opened the door long ago. Please come in and dine with us.” This is a paraphrase of the final verses of the “Posada de Navidad” in which we participated last Advent season. Originally an exclusively Catholic tradition, the Posada we experienced was more ecumenical. A procession starts at one point in town with a small ‘float’ of a Nativity scene (the one we saw was made by local kids) that is carried by two people while others carry improvised lanterns. They stop at designated homes and businesses, knocking on doors, imitating Mary and Joseph, asking for food and shelter. Each stop turns them away, and then some or all of the occupants join the procession. The group arrives at their destination, where another group waits inside. Then, from opposite sides of the closed door the two groups sing a dialogue back and forth, the group on the outside asking for food and shelter, the inside group singing for them to go away—for all they know they could be robbers or bad people. This goes on for several choruses until the inside group finally realizes it’s Mary and Joseph; the tune changes, the doors open, and the groups sing a final verse together. Then everyone comes in for food, drink, and celebration.Continue reading
A letter from Choon Lim in South Korea (Regional Liaison for East Asia)
November 2014 - Taiwan’s 101 and PC(USA)’s 1001
As the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s Regional Liaison for East Asia, I have visited North Korea (2 times), China (3), Hong Kong (1), Taiwan (1), Japan (1) and South Korea (my base in 2014) and have met all of the mission co-workers and partner churches and institutions in the region. It is by God’s grace that I could make all of these mission trips. So I give thanks to God and give thanks for your prayers and support. Of the many activities I have accomplished in 2014, I want to share with you one special event.
Between October 10 and 15, 2014, a historic mission consultation between the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was held in Hsin-Chu, Taiwan. We had not had such a consultation for a decade due to a series of personnel changes and organizational adjustments in our Louisville offices. The purpose of the consultation was to understand each other through fellowship and to build a strong partnership by initiating future cooperation on mission and ministry.Continue reading
A Letter from Amanda Craft serving as Regional Liaison for Mexico and Guatemala
Fall 2014 - Being Vulnerable
Do I know how to be vulnerable, especially in my relationship with God? I was struck by this question from a friend’s thank-you note.
I was privileged to lead a Sunday school class at University Presbyterian Church in El Paso, Texas, on the reflection book, When Helping Hurts: The Small Group Experience. I was asked to lead the unit on “Seeing God at Work.” Looking through the book, I was excited by the challenge to think through how I’ve seen God at work and how I’ve seen God’s work obstructed by our humanness and brokenness.
We spent time thinking about how we relate to those we hope to help and why we give to them. We can give out of a place of shame, which comes from within. We can give because we think we have to. We can give because we think this will appease those asking. We can give because we think money is the solution. We can give because we feel sorry for those poor people. We can give out a place of brokenness.Continue reading
A Letter from Omar Chan serving at the U.S./Mexico border
November 2014 - Roberto’s Story
“Omar, welcome to the border. We are glad you’re here” is the greeting I receive as I sit down for lunch. I had just finished my first board meeting with the Pasos de Fe border site between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. We were sitting down to share in a lunch of fish tacos.
Pastor Roberto didn’t stop there. He continued to share his personal story. He invited me into his life and the work on the border with what he shared. Roberto is a young pastor and has only been in Juarez for a few years. However, his life has crossed ministries along several U.S./Mexico border sites and it highlights the transformative work that has occurred.
When he was an adolescent, Roberto was trapped in the desperation of having few options. Employment opportunities were difficult to come upon, and university studies never fit. He floated in and out of part-time work and soon found a remedy to his problems in alcohol and drugs. Both drugs and alcohol were easy to find and many of his friends used, too, so it did not seem like he was choosing the wrong path. However, quickly he became addicted to both. As his addiction grew stronger, his life began to spiral, and his family and friends began to notice.Continue reading
A letter from Renee and Justin Sundberg serving in Nicaragua
December 2014 - Quakes (of Earth and Hearts)
“[I have spoken] foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).
Huge laminate pieces of our roof pried loose and rattled our house. “There goes last month’s roof repair!” I thought. “Or maybe a tree limb,” I continued thinking, “fell on our roof and is sliding destructively downward.” My exhausted brain could not comprehend the noise that woke two of our sleeping children. But nothing fell from above. Instead, from below, a 7.4 earthquake rocked our home for nearly a minute. It spared our lives. And belongings. In fact, its only impact was the racing of my imagination as the metal and mortar that held our house in place bounced and jostled our floors and doors.
But another sort of earthquake struck me much more powerfully exactly two weeks later. It emanated from Catalina, a determined young woman. She had been just a few feet away from me when she spoke with radiant hope for her community and it registered 8.0 on my heart’s Richter scale.Continue reading
A letter from Katie Griffin serving in Argentina
Advent 2014 - Theological Education Transforms
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” Luke 2:14
Only one desk—in a room full of desks, equipped with computers, pens, paper, chairs, and people to work at them—only one desk, and an empty one at that, is designated for one of the professors. Who is the fortunate professor to have a designated desk in this workroom?
Regarding Presbyterian World Mission (PWM) theological educators, PWM agrees to provide adequately trained theological educators to Protestant institutes of theological education. The institutes must agree to provide a work space on site for us. From a U.S. perspective, this seems fair enough. Nevertheless, the diverse challenges that face institutes of theological education around the world often mean that this requirement creates privilege.
In the workroom described above, the privileged mission co-worker is César Carhuachín, who teaches biblical studies and theology at the Colombia Reformed University (CUR, for its abbreviation in Spanish) in Barranquilla.Continue reading
A letter from Ryan and Alethia White serving in Germany
Advent 2014 - Seeking Refuge
Luke 2:4-7: Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to ... Bethlehem ... with Mary who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in clothes and placed him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.
Stress—and a Respite
Muhammad was an Afghani man sharing how he had arrived in Athens, Greece. He first traveled from Afghanistan to Iran, from there to Turkey, and then to Athens. Many of the refugees sitting around the circle at a recent conference organized by the Iranian Presbyterian Church in Berlin shared similar stories of traveling thousands of miles through different countries before arriving in Greece. But for many their travels were not finished.
The Greek economy has been struggling for many years, along with other southern European countries. These are also the same countries where many refugees arrive, seeking to begin a new life. But, like Jesus, they are finding there is no room for them. Greece and other countries do not have the resources to support the wave of immigrants arriving. As a result we heard reports that many new refugees have nowhere to stay, so they sleep in parks or on the streets.Continue reading
A letter from Michael Ludwig serving in Niger
November 2014 - One Good Gift Deserves Another
Often our giving seems so disengaged from its meaning. We know we have so much to be thankful for (here in Niger or anywhere else), but still it doesn’t feel like there’s much excitement or spirit in the weekly offerings we give. Sometimes it’s just about putting something in the offering plate so you don’t feel embarrassed with others watching. For myself, I constantly need to refocus the way I think about giving to make sure it’s in a healthy place. I want to make sure my giving is contributing in a meaningful way! Our short time here in Niger has helped me see giving in a fuller way in church, so let me bring you along on my journey with offerings!
At first the way the church here does offerings really offended my sensibilities. Someone would stand up impromptu with the offering baskets during or after a song several times a service and seem to be asking others to come give money to show they were thankful. Some would then colorfully dance their way to the offering baskets to put something in. I was immediately bothered that they would take several offerings after I’d already given the money I’d brought to give (Rachel visited a women’s gathering that had seven offerings!), and also bothered that it was such a showy thing of asking and going up to give. I also noticed that most gifts consisted of a coin or two, which amounts to only a few cents. To me it seemed like people were not taking offering their gifts very seriously if the church has to ask so many times, cajoling people to give, and then people are making such a self-glorifying show of giving just small coins. Watching this happen weekly made me want to burst out with critiques, “Isn’t everyone missing the deeper meaning of giving our whole lives as an offering to God? Shouldn’t we be doing this out of thankfulness and not seeking to bring attention to ourselves in return?”Continue reading
A letter from Cobbie Palm serving in the Philippines
November 2014 - Peace! Be Still!
The Biblical story in the Gospel of Mark tells of a great windstorm arising while Jesus and the other disciples were in a boat at sea. Jesus is awakened and brings calm to the storm with the words, “Peace! Be Still!” It could have been just rain or wind, but the Bible says a great windstorm—this is the power of a typhoon, and in the Philippines we understand the power of typhoons; we average 26 typhoons a year. We understand that when a typhoon hits, the reach is far and wide, both the boats and the shore are affected—and therefore we understand that when Jesus says, “Peace, Be Still” to a typhoon, the word “Peace” is a peace that reaches far and wide, from the boats on the water to the homes on the shore.
A peace that is far and wide, reaching from boats on the water to homes on the shore, is guiding the work of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) as it reaches out to communities devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, which cut through parts of central Philippines on November 8, 2013.Continue reading
A letter from Kari Nicewander and Joel DeJong serving in Zambia
Christmas 2014 - The LIght Will Overcome
It was dark, really dark. And it is not always the wisest choice to drive through the rough bush roads when the sky is black and evening has turned to night. But the radiator was leaking and the starter motor was broken. So every 40 minutes we had to stop and find water at the nearest bore hole and get some people from the villages to help push the truck. We were hours from our destination and not sure where to stop. I stood by the side of a quiet street, where the truck was stopped yet again, wondering if I could sleep in the bed of the truck, wondering where my colleagues would rest if we did not make it to a guesthouse of some sort.
Out of the darkness came a group of men; they saw our big red truck stopped on the side of the road. After leading us to a source of water and waiting as the radiator was filled yet again, they lined up behind the vehicle. We moved forward, slowly at first, and then the engine started. They waved good-bye, and we were off again, to repeat this procedure throughout the night.Continue reading
A letter from Brenda Harcourt serving in Kenya
Fall 2014 - Preparing Students for Ministry
I was sitting in my office last July when in walked two of my students. They are currently serving as student pastors, waiting for graduation and their ordinations. It was good to see them and share with them about their current locations and the pastoral opportunities they are having. They both commented that the classes they took with me in practical ministry were so helpful for them. We laughed together and shared stories, and then they asked me to pray for them before they left my office. Of course I did and they thanked me again and then said that my prayers always made them feel like God was sitting with us in the room and understood what the needs of each of us were.
After they left I thought about our visit. I thought about how during classes I get so excited about sharing with them about ministry and all the experiences that will be waiting for them. I try to make ministry real and not just a mind-filling experience, but a ministry that meets us in the hearts of the people. In the experiences of sharing with a family at the birth of their baby when God places that baby in their arms and says, “This is my child, raise him/her for the next 18 years, sharing with them the richness of your faith and giving them wings to fly when they are ready.” Or at the deathbed of a parishioner when you get to experience them at their most vulnerable and they invite you in to be a part of the passing from this life to eternity. Then there are all those times in between when we live life by the ups and downs and struggles and joys. That is the meat of ministry. Those Sunday experiences are a brief hour or so when we gather as a community or family of faith and then go back to the marketplace to live out our lives. But those hours and days outside of Sunday are not necessarily what we are given the most help with in seminary.Continue reading
A letter from Mary Nebelsick in the U.S., on Interpretation Assignment from the Philippines
Christmas 2014 - Love Comes Down
John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he sent his only son so that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
The trees outside our window at the Furlough Home, here in Louisville, Ky., are glorious. They raise their branches up in praise to God who created them. Birds perch on their branches and squirrels run up and down their trunks seeking the last of the nuts that will feed them through the winter. It is an idyllic scene and a comforting one. In our lives, dear friends, it is you who are our tree. In praise of God you have sheltered us throughout our ministry, provided for our every need, and given us this year of hope to come to you and share the details of our ministry. We thank you for this immeasurable gift. Without you we would not be able to do ministry in the Philippines and we do it, gratefully and lovingly, with you as our partners.Continue reading
A letter from Ruth Brown serving in Congo
Christmas 2014 - Abiba's Story
Muoyo-webe (Life to you!) and Merry Christmas to you!
For this Christmas-time newsletter, here is a story about two children and the love of Christians who are assisting them in the Presbyterian Church of Congo’s Ditekemena (Hope) program, which provides a temporary home for street children and tries to resettle the children into the homes of their family members.
Abiba, a tall, smiling 12-year-old girl, may be found at almost any time of day playing with her baby sister, Noella.
Noella, as her name suggests, was born on Christmas Day. On December 25, 2012, in Kinshasa, the sprawling, noisy, capital city of Congo, the birth of Noella was soon followed by tragedy when her mother, weak from childbirth and from AIDS, which she had contracted from her husband, died, leaving six orphans: the newborn infant, Noella, and her five older siblings. The father of the children had died earlier that year in the mines where he was working. Noella, mercifully, was not infected with HIV.Continue reading
A Letter from Myoung Ho Yang serving in Hong Kong
November 2014 - Getting Started
The beautiful view of green ridges met our eyes when we arrived here Hong Kong at the end of August. It is still green after two months have passed by and I guess it will be green in January, too. Having been accustomed to the various colors and air of four seasons our whole life, here we cannot tell the change of seasons and time without the aid of calendar. We have become more and more used to this humid and sweating weather. But a small lizard taking a rest in our dish still takes Ji Yeon by surprise. Our two boys living in the U.S. by nowmay be well adjusted to living by themselves.
School started a week after we arrived. Most classes are taught in Cantonese and a few in English. We have many students from mainland China, Myanmar, and Cambodia. As I talk with the students, I realize that there is a huge vineyard beyond imagination connected to this vineyard where we are serving. Looking into that vineyard generates passion and hope, which gives us an impetus to language studies.Continue reading
A letter from Don and Sook Nim Choi serving in Indonesia
November 2014 - Introducing Ourselves
Hi, my name is Sook Nim Choi [SNC].
And I am Don Choi [DC].
[SNC] Previously I used to be a soccer mom, a local artist in the San Francisco Bay area. Now I teach art and English at Duta Wachana Christian University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
[DC] And I used to be a Silicon Valley engineer and now advise policy for international cooperation, train Christian leaders, and assist East-West dialogue in the same university. Indonesia’s population is the fourth largest in the world. Our global partner, the Communion of Churches of Indonesia (PGI), is the largest organization of Christian churches in Indonesia. National issues are addressed through our partnership and we participate in interfaith dialogue and promote the development of leaders for the churches of Indonesia.
[SNC] We are excited with this opportunity to serve Christ with the people of Yogyakarta. We hope our ministry expresses God’s love to build healthy relationships, understanding and learning from each other’s art, science and religion. We continue to share our blessings to facilitate growth of young Indonesians and to cease their cycle of poverty.Continue reading
A letter from Christi Boyd serving in Congo
Fall 2014 - Child Migrants; Rwanda
Claudine (12) had it all planned out with three neighborhood friends in the village of Mbati, Rwanda. The threesome had family in the capital city, Kigali, who would help Claudine find work there. On market day that week she was going to ask her parents for money to go get her hair done, but use it to pay for transportation instead. Someone had already made the arrangements for the four youngsters to travel and had shown them where to go. Once in the big city, however, the thrill soon waned. Life as a housemaid at that young age turned out to be harsh. Changing employers didn't help much, and the $14 Claudine had earned after five months of work represented only eight weeks' worth of the promised salary. Still, it wasn't so much the maltreatment and verbal abuse that made her ache to go back home as it was seeing the family's children off to school after she had prepared their breakfast and school lunches. "I looked at my life and realized it was miserable,” she said. “Once I had made up my mind, I got so excited! I couldn't wait for the night to be over and the morning to come so I could return home and start school again myself. Now that I am back, nothing can stop me from going to class. Because I have seen that quitting to look for work is like death."Continue reading
A letter from Justin Sundberg serving in Nicaragua
October 2014 - Orienting: Up, Out, and Back
We have now been in Nicaragua for four months. We are finding our way, but not without challenge. We shared with you in our Summer 2014 Mission Connections letter that we were looking for a permanent home. Now we are settling in!
Here is how to find us:
“At kilometer 14.5 on the old highway to Leon, go 150 meters up from the “Los Altos” bridge, then 70 meters past the "Puro Pinolero" restaurant, take a right on the partially paved road and go 100 meters back toward the lake, then look for the blue house.”
It has been fun to experiment with Managua’s address system, one without street names or numbers. It has been this way since the earthquake of ’72 destroyed most of the capital. The challenge, however, is that we don’t know 99 percent of the landmarks that are referenced in addresses. And it is not uncommon in these addresses to refer to buildings and businesses that no longer exist. Google Maps has a beautiful map of Managua, complete with street names, but no one knows these street names, nor are there street signs on Managua’s roads.Continue reading
A letter from Liz Searles serving in Romania
christmas 2014 - wait. Relate. Incarnate.
Relationship and Incarnationship
This year I ask you to remember gift-givers in Tulcea, Romania, and in the U.S.
In mid-October an ecumenical team from Romanian churches gathered to organize for Operation Christmas Child (OCC) in Tulcea County. We are preparing to deliver OCC gift boxes to children of want and children of trauma. For most, Christmas is about the tree in the classroom or orphanage. Most hope for just one personal present—even socks, underwear or school supplies. OCC volunteers deliver gift boxes of toys and treats, and all too briefly share Christmas truth. The OCC booklet available to each child communicates that Jesus is the greatest gift: “Isus e cadoul cel mai minunat!”Continue reading
A letter from Kay Day serving in Rwanda
november 2014 - thanks
Dear family and friends,
As November begins, even though I am thousands of miles away from the States, I immediately think of Thanksgiving. While that is not a holiday that we celebrate in Rwanda, I believe with all my heart that it is the way God wants us to live. (How many times does Scripture say, “Give thanks”?) So I delight to reflect on those things and those people for whom I am most thankful. As I do that, I realize that most of my thoughts center on people and relationships.
I begin with my colleagues. There are many, but the first one who comes to mind is my friend Juvenal Rwamunyana. He is the chaplain for PIASS and the dean of students and he teaches, but he is also the president of Kigali Presbytery—like the general presbyter in the PC(USA). Kigali is the largest of the presbyteries of the church here. So he has two enormous jobs, one in Kigali and the other in Butare (a two-hour driving distance apart). He carefully juggles his schedule to meet the requirements of both. What impresses me is that when you are in his presence, he makes you feel as if there is nothing and no one as important as you are. He does this with students, faculty and cab drivers. It is an amazing gift. I am thankful to call him my friend.Continue reading
A letter from Eric and Becky Hinderliter serving in Lithuania
fall 2014 - war and peace
You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end (Matthew 24:6; Mark 13:7).
But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall… (Ephesians 2:13-14).
History looms large in our mission context here in Lithuania. Much needs to be considered about war and peace. This year is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. Among other memorials in Klaipėda to this time is a German military cemetery. In World War II the city of Klaipeda (then the German city of Memel) saw heavy fighting between the advancing Soviet army and the Nazi forces. The Soviets captured the city in January 1945. Many additional graves were added to the military cemetery—and to many other gravesites, often unknown today. Yet from a Lithuanian perspective the arrival of the Soviets and the defeat of Nazi Germany was not the liberation from oppression we may imagine. May 9, 1945, the day of victory observed in the Soviet sphere, is not a day of freedom but the continuation of Lithuanians’ struggle for liberation, now against the arrest and deportations of Lithuanian patriots to Siberia. Many perished. A partisan struggle of Lithuanian fighters, the "forest brothers," continued to 1953. After 60 years we assumed that the borders of Europe were set; any conflict over territory would never lead to violence. Or so we thought. The conflict this spring and summer in eastern Ukraine seems ominous. NATO has deployed weapons here. Rumors abound about the intentions of Russia and the response of the West. The Baltic states in particular seem most vulnerable. Lithuanians wonder whether their hard-won independence will endure.Continue reading
A letter from John and Gwen Haspels in South Africa
December 2014 - Friends and Shareholders
“Joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified YOU to SHARE
in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light” (Col. 1:12).
Dear Friends and Shareholders,
On behalf of the Suri Church we want to take this opportunity at the end of 2014 to "JOYFULLY THANK" each of you for your partnership with us during the last 22 years. The growing, thriving Suri Church is your inheritance. This year has seen the birth of five new worshiping communities with more than 500 baptisms. Bible translation and Suri literacy continue despite setbacks. Suri Baale literacy has begun and hopefully Bible translation in the near future.Continue reading
A letter from Elisabeth Cook serving in Costa Rica
november 2014 - movements of transformation
As graduates of UBL, unlike others who have continued their studies in the United States or Europe, David and Karoline had a dream for continued postgraduate study that led them to an uncommon place: not the First World, but to another part of the “Two-Thirds World.” They dared to move out into the unknown, eager to learn about contextual biblical studies and gender issues from the context of South Africa, a region that still reels under the consequences of apartheid. In this uncommon place they have been a testimony to what God is doing in Latin America and to the academic preparation they received with the PC(USA) partner institution, the Latin American Biblical University in Costa Rica, where I serve.Continue reading
A letter from Dessa Palm serving in the Philippines
october 2014 - A time for healing
Precious Laughter: A Time for Healing
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance
It is almost one year now since the super typhoon Haiyan (or Yolanda) hit the eastern Visayas region on Nov. 8, 2013, with great wrath. It was a time of terror and tragedy, one that led to massive devastation and loss of lives. I remember having cried with anguish as we witnessed the stories through print and television, feeling so hopeless and helpless from our relative distance. I also remember having prayed for God to let us know if there was any way we could help rebuild and heal the affected communities in ways that we know and love best—through the arts and creative action.
A letter from Sarah Henken serving as Regional Liaison for the Andean Region, based in Bolivia
november 2014 - seeing anew
When I first heard of the Pan-American Highway, I imagined something like the broad, smooth freeways we have at home in California. Now that I’ve seen certain South American sections of the Highway, I know that this is true at points, but there are also much humbler stretches, and one place where it is a gravel road that simply dead-ends in the swampland of the Darien Gap, just south of the Panama-Colombia border. I was there in September with a group of eager, committed, gifted 20-somethings who had just arrived to begin their year of service as Young Adult Volunteers (or YAVs) in the program’s brand-new Colombia site—which I am now coordinating in addition to my ongoing role as regional liaison.Continue reading
A letter from Sara Armstrong and Rusty Edmondson serving in Peru
december 2014 - water ministry goes viral
Water purification systems go "viral"
We first met Pastor Edgar and his wife, Alejandra, in 2009. They are raising a family, sustaining a church and presbytery, working the family farm, and Edgar has a day job at the elementary school. However, they find time for a water ministry. The Living Waters for the World (LWW) team from the Presbytery of San Gabriel visited with the Maynay Presbyterian Church and the municipality for two years before establishing a covenant with them in 2010.
Over 15,000 Peruvians were resettled in Pastor Edgar's town of Maynay after the Time of Terror (1980-2003). In this area, which has experienced so much violence, it is hard to trust anyone. The fact that most of them speak Quechua, the language of the ancient Incas, made it more difficult. It took us two years to negotiate a four-way covenant before we started building. The water purification system ended up, not in the church, but in the city hall of Maynay. How do you build trust and unity in a town where everyone is new and a stranger to each other? One way is through clean water.Continue reading
A letter from Sara Armstrong serving in Peru
november 2014 - an unexpected impact
We were delighted to help organize seven new mission partnerships in 2014. We never know the extent of the impact that teams are making as they travel and work in Peru. The Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church in Spring, Texas, sent a mission team in August to Ayaviri in the altiplano of southern Peru. Their work was to help with a synodwide training for young Sunday School teachers who would then establish Christian Education programs all around the area. It was an exciting week with training in three languages. At the same time, Dr. Jackson Dzakuma was visiting farmers and agricultural projects in the area. Here he writes about one day of his Peru trip:
A letter from Carolyn Weber ending service in Ethiopia
Fall 2014- Bittersweet Goodbyes
Grace and peace to you in the mighty name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
June 28 concluded not only the Mekane Yesus Seminary’s 2013/2014 school year, but also the teaching portion of my almost five years of mission to Ethiopia. God’s call to teach Intermediate and Advanced English courses to Bachelor of Theology students in Ethiopia brought so much more—teaching courses in Spiritual Formation and in Holistic Ministry and Development as well as developing the Master of Arts in Practical Ministry program.
One of my greatest joys this past year was mentoring 46 Master’s students in Personal Development, where they focused on becoming more Christ-like. Students read spiritual authors using a special method of reading—lectio divina—where they noticed words and phrases that stood out to them. Then they asked God to guide their day in regard to that learning. Students shared this wisdom in their Triad groups.Students from several ethnic groups learned to respect, appreciate, and love one another in the Triads. Some students translated the materials into their heart languages and have been teaching people in their churches the valuable lessons they learned. One student reported that he had already trained 1,000 persons in using this method!Continue reading
A letter from Sandi and Brian Thompson-Royer serving in Guatemala
Christmas - Walking Together
Today I did some Christmas shopping at UPAVIM (Unidas para Vivir Mejor—United for a Better Life—a Guatemalan nonprofit women's organization). Before I shopped, I heard the story of a community of displaced people who are survivors of the civil war and had the courage to begin to build a new community. They were not welcomed, had no access to water—only vacant land in an area where every day their lives were confronted with violence, filth, and unimaginable poverty. Today, 30 years later, it is still in an area wrought with violence and poverty, yet there is hope and programs that support the community. UPAVIM’s building hosts a medical clinic, bakery, day care, Montessori school, scholarships for students, jobs for women, and a large Fair Trade craft business that helps support all of these programs. The fourth floor of their building was funded by a Self Development of People grant, which comes out of the PC(USA) One Great Hour of Sharing offering. We had children sing to us in both English and Spanish. Women shared their stories of how their lives are different because of UPAVIM. One woman had worked there for only a month but for eight years she had prayed for the job because the working conditions and benefits are so good. After the tour and hearing the stories, of course I wanted to shop! I bought a little Christmas tree, butterfly-shaped earrings, and heart garlands all made from recycled pop cans. Also, “angels of hope” ornaments sewn from traditional Guatemalan fabric. There is much more to this story and there have been many unimaginable struggles to get to where they are today, and the struggles continue. These are women with vision and hope to continue to transform their community. I left lifted by their stories and knowing I had helped in a very small way to be part of this by listening and purchasing my gifts.Continue reading
A letter from Burkhard Paetzold serving as Regional Liaison for Central and Eastern Europe, based in Germany
Christmas 2014 - Questions and Answers
Warm Christmas greetings from Germany!
Perhaps you would expect a Christmas letter from Germany to include references to Hoffman’s Nutcracker or to the joys of eating pfefferkuchen (a typical Christmas cookie in Germany). Or perhaps you might imagine that a Christmas letter from Germany would include a picture of a snow-decked castle in the Alps. If only I could enclose a tasty pfefferkuchen, I would.
What I can do is wish you a blessed and Merry Christmas!
At Christmas people from every nation join in universal prayer for peace and reaffirm their hope that the promises of Christmas will become true
I spent September through November visiting churches in presbyteries in Michigan, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Illinois and North Carolina. This letter gives me a chance to thank you all once more, especially you who were involved in preparing my itinerary, or who hosted and fed me or gave me rides, or listened patiently (!) to my stories or shared your own stories with me.Continue reading
Thank You and Your Family for serving God by taking His word so far from Your Home.
God is doing his work and using us a tools in other nations.during my working here in Athens i observed that there are many oppertunities to share the Gospel massage with other those do not know Jesus and we can bring them to Jesus Christ.Please prayer for me that i'm a very littel to that God is using me here in Athens Greece. God bless you.